After seeing a Charlie Rose Show

Ellouise Schoettler
I would like to write fast and funny essays for the blog  - but you know something, I don't think I know how anymore.

It's not writer's block exactly - its lack of a world view.

What does that mean?

It means that I have been so totally focused on the everyday of my own life for the past three years that it has narrowed my vision for what is going on in the big world. I imagine others who live with serious illness, theirs or that of a loved one, may feel the same.

So, if you read this blog - please be patient with me as I try to creak myself around to change my focus and take a look at the world around me.

I am working on it.

Last night I watched a recent Charlie Rose Show where he was interviewing writer George Saunders.
I love to watch fellow North Carolinian Charlie Rose even though I do have to over look that he went to Duke not Carolina (UNC). 

George Saunders
Although I don't remember all they said to each other I was taken with Saunders' openness about the difficulties of writing. He talked about the need to let the work take its own direction - not to pre-plan so that you squeeze the life out of it.

That's a bit like the way I work - whether working out a new oral story or typing freely to see if something comes together - as I am doing now.

Saunders defended himself because he has never written a novel even though his new book of short stories, Tenth of December is high on the New York Times Best Seller list. Would you believe that there are some in the literary world who are punching him about that?  Read about it   HERE.

Listening to him I liked him and all the more when he added that once his wife gives a first draft the thumbs up - he works and re-works the piece to give the prose an electric spark. I loved that!! His wife is his muse and he admits it. How great is that? Read more about him in this in-depth interview.

Now I have to read his new book - Tenth of December.


Cut and Paste

Collage Book - e. schoettler
I love to work with magazines and rely on accident and serendipity to make the composition.


Resemblances and Stories = Family Blessings

Looking Back

Remsemblances and stories are a blessing.

My son Jim - recently brought out this picture taken when he was a Junior or Senior at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. He was about 22 years old.

Jim and I - along with with Karen and Robin - went to Hopkins for the ceremony when he was inducted into the Army ROTC.  I pinned on his Lt's Bar.

Next week - now a Colonel - he is retiring from the U.S. Army  - after 35 years of service as a JAG Officer - on active duty and then in the active Reserve. There are several ceremonies in store for his family next week.

We will miss Jim's being there - smiling proudly

Pictures affirm a connection and make a story -

Jim, Sr. - at Fresno State College
at 22 years old.

Do you see it like I do?

Resemblances and stories are family blessings.


Protect yourself - Redux

a nice stranger at the 2012 National Storytelling Festival in October took this photo for me using my iPhone.
A few months ago I added the Blogger APP to my iPad - wrote this post and then forgot I had down loaded the APP- until today when Linda Crim mentioned her recent blogging from her iPad.
So, I looked up the Blogger App on my iPad and set out to download this post.  It was a bit confusing. 

I will be working with this APP more now that I have found it again because I have a STORYTELLING  TOUR to South Carolina and Georgia in April and it would be great to keep up wth emails, blogs and my writing work without having to cart my full size MAC computer along. One of my dreams is to lighten my load to travel with the three Apples - iPad, iPod and iPhone. Well, OK - a camera. Wouldn't that be wonderful??

First written in October 2012. It is still good advice.
My sister came for a week which turned into 10 days when she developed bronchitis. It was a warm and good visit. It is now eight months since Jim died...and I appreciated her being here because I needed her support now..perhaps even more than earlier.

Ok I have done many hard tasks during these months but there was one looming that was harder than I expected and I really needed a sister to be with me. 

Jim and I held everything ..we thought..jointly. But, I came to find out that one thing had slipped through. The title on our car was only in Jim's name. The license tags were due for renewal so they could not be out off.

Kathy went with me to fix it. I had a packet of papers: Jim's death certificate, the original title, the Administration paper naming me Executor of the estate, insurance info, and my drivers license. Fortunately I navigated the line fairly quickly because as I stood in line holding those documents I began to tear up as it "hit" me emotionally. I was here to accomplish one more separation from Jim. No, you don't get used to it...

My voice broke and I cried when the woman took the title, refused to copy it saying, "you don't need it" before she realized the emotional impact I was experiencing, relented and copied it for me. 

So, here is my advice: if you are married check your holdings and have everything in joint names. It will save you from extra emotional anguish later. 



Trolling memories. Thinking about a new story.

My grandfather had a royal upright on the desk in his home office. I loved it ..the look of it: the sound of the letters hitting the paper: the scaping sound when you pulled the carriage across to return to start. And then...the words appeared on a piece of paper.  Magic.

When my mother typed her fingers flew across the keys as she filled pages with words. She was a 
professional secretary. Once she was secretary to the District Attorney and she worked in the Court 
House, a big important building downtown.

After my grandfather died my grandmother bought a portable typewriter for her smaller apartment. I was overjoyed when she gave the old Royal Upright to my daddy. I could type my high school papers on it but they were always plagued with typos. One night when my mother saw the pile of crumpled papers on the floor beside me my 
mother told me to move over and she typed my paper for me. It was perfect.

But the adolescent stories did not have to be perfect so I typed them myself.  Clicking and clacking the keys as I reached for the words I needed.

Shortly after we were married Jim and I went to the Goodwill 
Store in Baltimore and bought a Royal upright typewriter for $20...and a good sized executive desk for $10 ... a lot of money for our budget. 

The oversize kitchen in our row house apartment was the warmest room so we put the desk there making it our first quasi home office. Jim typed his medical student  papers and letters on it.

I had always had a hankering to be a writer so I spent the lonely evenings when Jim was
working or studying typing stories, long letters and anything else I  could think of.  

It started the pattern we followed for the next 56  years.


Ken Burns Equation for Story

Fourteen years ago I attended a long workshop with Donald Davis in Killington, VT. Since then I make sure I work with him at least once a year not just for what he has to say about my stories but for insights and wisdom about story - - and about life. Donald was in top form this last week-end during his workshop in Maryland with nine tellers who were all working on challenging complicated stories. His insights and feedback led discussions that spurred the tellers forward as they ready their stories for performance. But over time I have learned that all the gold is not just in the direct teaching or discussions. I listen for the "pearls" Donald often drops in story sessions and with the storytellers at the lunch table. This week-end he mentioned Ken Burns and his You Tube clip "on Story". Later I watched the clip not once but twice on my iPad. See what you think.


Just asking

In 2005 Jim and I made this photo collage abacus for an exhibition to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.

It was a great way to dispose of several
boxes of family photos.


What do I do with the abacus - which is stored in a very large box in my studio.

Just asking...........


Take Care of Yourself

 Tick Tock!
Multi-tasking all day.
Jumping from one list to another.
Its easy to lose your place and find yourself backing up.

 The Flu warnings and reports on CNN get my attention.
Reminds me of 1958 - the year they said was the worst Flu Epidemic since 1919.

Jim was an intern at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, NY
When all the beds in the patient wards were full they set up
  beds in the hallways and every where else they could fit one in.
Jim did not come home for days to protect me and year-old Jimmy.

Those were the days before flu shots and hand sanitizers.
Today we do have some things to use to protect ourselves - and then hope they work.

When these warnings started Jim always checked things out and advised me what to do.  Today I really understand that I don't think I fully appreciated how lucky I was to have my 24/7 doctor standing by. Our family had concierge medicine before anyone ever thought of calling it that or charging for it.

That's just another thing on the list that I miss without Jim. All the "grief" books explain that seeing the impact someone has had on  your life - is part of the pain of the loss. What's really sad about it to me - is not being able to say thank you.

Jim had a few standard orders which I am already doing -
as well as
washing my hands and
feeling glad I stopped off at the Safeway to have my Flu shot when I was in California. Isn't it great that these days Flu shots are so easily accessible -
What do you do to keep yourself well?

What does your doctor advise you to do?


Cutting down on Connecting


When I make my lists for the day or week or month - I often feel kind of like I am trying to tame my world - - but no matter how I crack the whip I never feel completely "in charge."

You know something?
The truth is I am NOT in charge  - because I like to be connected.

My fascination with technology has me in its grip.

Checking Facebook and my email eats up time and distracts me from my list.  Instead of staying on my list something alluring or demanding  pops up that sets me on a totally different course or adds a few more things to the list I had already made for myself.

There was a time when  I set up in my studio, began a project,  and got lost for hours at a time. Haven't done that in a while. Or, made a list and ended the day with most of the chores crossed off - rather than carried over to another day. There were times when I actually started the day with a clean slate. Do you remember those as "good old days?"

I do and I miss them. 

So, I guess the only solution is to turn that whip on myself - and work at taming my curiosity about all the worlds open for viewing on Facebook and the Internet.

It will be interesting to see if I really can curb my appetite - and ration the amount of time I connect every day.


More will be revealed.


Review of 2012 - Preview 2013

Here is a quick look at 2012 as I pack it away and move on. Sorry it sounds so much like a job review - but the year has been so complicated emotionally this is probably the only way for me to tackle this task. I want to let everyone know although I had the breath knocked out me I am standing on my feet and working.

When Jim died March 6 my world was shattered. We were married 56 years and the world without him still often feels empty. I am extremely fortunate to have a loving family and good friends who have stepped in to help me back to my feet. I am emensely grateful and hope to "pay forward" all the kindnesses shown to me.

 Jim thought storytelling would be grace and a life perserver for me - he was right. I was back telling stories by the end of March thanks to Jessica Piscitelli Robinson and Better Said Than Done.

Mid-July I was on stage for five shows of my one-woman show Pushing Boundaries at the DC Capital Fringe.
August 1 was Jim's burial at Arlington National Cemetary - where the ritual was powerful and healing. Since then I visit Arlington every Wednesday - and it probably will not surprise any one that my new program at the Fringe July 2013 centers on Arlington - blending history and personal story

In October I attended the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN with a warm group of friends. It was an emotionally difficult trip but hearing the stories and reconnecting with folks was worth it. Particularly seeing the fabulous Jeanne Robertson in person. She was everything I expected - actually more.

While I adapted to this very different life I kept up a storytelling calendar which included telling stories for the VASA Olio in Lorton, VA, and the Showcase produced by Voices in the Glen in Bethesda; kept up the weekly TV tapings of Stories in Focus and occasionaly tapings of Stories in Focus with guests. As well as producing the monthly Tales in the Village at Friendship Heights Village Community Center.

Two special events: An evening for me was telling stories for a House Concert in Manassas, VA with my friend WVA storyteller Susanna Holstein. And being a guest on the Fairfax VA cable tv show, "Out of the Past", with my long-time friend Lee Shephard.

 In October my sister Kathy, who lives in Georgia,  came for a visit. We made a sentimental journey to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where Jim and I met and lived for the first couple years of our marriage. Kathy came and stayed with us a month in the first summer so we shared memories of the place and time.

My daughter Karen and I spent Thanksgiving with my sister Lynda and her husband Henry in North Carolina. It was a lovely time - and, surprise, surprise - I returned with a new story, Avon, about Henry's mother, which he gave me permission to tell.

Ended the year with a very special trip with our family to California - where we visited Jim's family and celebrated Christmas. Then home in time to be here for December 30th - our 57th wedding anniversary. All I can say about this year is that "Firsts" are tough challenges -- with a bit of comfort in the fact that the "firsts" are done. By New Year's I was pretty worn out with firsts - Now as I enter 2013 - there is one more First ahead - the anniversary of Jim's death March 6.

There are some challenges on my storytelling calendar I am really looking forward to - especially a bit of travel own south which includes Stone Soup Storytelling Festival, April 19 and 2013  in Woodruff, SC and taking "Finding Gus" to Anderson, SC April 21 - for those who may not know - that's taking Gus back to his boyhood home area.

Next week-end I am starting off the year with our annual private workshop with storyteller Donald Davis - now that's kicking things off on a high note!

Happy New Year to Everyone.